A dog-loving West End renter and first-time city-council candidate still believes his call for a city bylaw forbidding Vancouver pet stores to sell dogs is a good move even though the Georgia Straight could not find a single one that still does.
Initially, Jason Lamarche, a council candidate running with the Non-Partisan Association, claimed that he had been told Urban Puppy Shop still sells pups. However, store manager Bianca Steinmetz told the Straight the store stopped this practice in the spring.
“Regardless of how many there are, the fact of the matter is, if this comes and goes in waves.…When I grew up, it was common to see dogs in pet stores, and now it’s less common,” Ottawa-born Lamarche, 34, told the Straight. “It’s pretty much the last nail in the coffin for puppy mills, because it used to be commonplace in the past. With this bylaw in place, we are guaranteed it won’t come back in the future, regardless of a shift in tastes or attitudes.”
Pet Habitat was one of the last remaining Vancouver pet stores known to sell pups, but the company has since moved out of its Tinseltown location downtown and refers online customers to its Metropolis at Metrotown location. Lamarche is not perturbed by the thought of people simply jumping on the SkyTrain to Burnaby to circumvent a Vancouver bylaw.
“Well, that’s the thing: this is a regional issue,” Lamarche responded. “Richmond has already put forward a ban, and at this point the GVRD [Metro Vancouver] is going to have to look at what its strategy is for dogs and a number of different issues. If Vancouver steps up and shows leadership regarding dog safety and treatment, then they will pass it. That closes another link in the chain. And, essentially, you need these other municipalities to work together to solve this issue. But it’s about each municipality showing leadership in animal safety and passing these types of bylaws.”
Speaking by phone while on vacation, Philip Rooyakkers, president of Vancouver’s Urban Puppy Shop, told the Straight he predicts that all cities “are going to join this bandwagon” and we will see a “real push” for a regional ban on dog sales.
“Again, what does it do for the consumer, though?” Rooyakkers said. “As a retail store, I truly believe that we did it differently. We knew who our breeders were. We didn’t buy off of puppy brokers. We went through a whole process to qualify our breeders. We also went through a whole process to qualify our owners, right? We also acted as our own rescue.”
Rooyakkers added: “Unfortunately, what it’s doing, it’s going to take away that position for stores like us—not that there are that many out there—to be able to help people make those kinds of decisions.”
Lamarche claimed that “there is already a whole grey market for dogs in B.C.”
“I think the purpose of this is to let puppy mills know that the city of Vancouver is not open for business for their industry and that we want to promote adoption and responsible pet ownership,” he said. “Our preference, of course, is to encourage adoptions from shelters like the B.C. SPCA or the taxpayer-funded Vancouver Animal Control, which is where I got my dog from.”
Lorie Chortyk, long-time general manager of community relations at the B.C. SPCA, told the Straight her employer “absolutely” supports Lamarche’s proposal.
“I think people see the cute little puppies in the windows and they don’t realize just how the horrific cruelty goes on in the places where those animals are bred,” Chortyk said by phone. “So even though there are other places that puppy mills and puppy brokers will advertise their animals, the pet-store piece of it is the piece that municipalities can control. It is one piece of the puzzle that shuts down where these people can market these puppies.”
Lamarche claimed that there are more than 100,000 dogs in Vancouver. He added that a Facebook page he’s set up in their honour now has well over 500 human followers.